A recent conference in Dublin, hosted by the Local Government Management Agency, highlighted the key concerns of local councils on dealing with the fallout from Brexit.
Local authorities face a number of unprecedented difficulties as result of Brexit. They are however determined to prevail regardless of the changing political landscape and are focussed on building adaptable services.
Addressing the conference Local Authorities – Implications for Local Authorities and their Areas, Jackie Maguire, Chair of the County and City Management Association said Brexit has been to the forefront of local authority considerations since the UK vote to leave the EU.
“Preparing for the unknown is a huge challenge. In the local authority sector, our approach has been to consider all our plans and actions through the lens of Brexit, while maintaining close contact with Government and relevant departments throughout the negotiation period,” she said.
As well as the potential impact on local business and economic development, there are a number of practical implications for local authorities, particularly those along the border of Northern Ireland.
Jackie Maguire mentioned some existing arrangements, such as where the Northern Irish Fire Service provides first response to callouts in parts of Donegal and giving the further example of an ongoing cross-border greenway project, she said, “While both the Republic and Northern Ireland have been members of the EU, we have been able to work collaboratively on shared infrastructure development and shared service provision. We now face into an unknown situation as to whether that can continue.”
The CCMA Chair also highlighted the impact Brexit may have on environmental standards, “Currently we apply relatively consistent environmental policies north and south; this is the best way to achieve results. The Water Framework Directive, for example, is implemented in both jurisdictions to manage river basins and improve water quality but rivers don’t stop at borders.”
Discussing local authorities’ role in enterprise development and tourism, Jackie Maguire said, “Local authorities will do what we can to proactively mitigate against the worst impacts of Brexit and capitalise on any opportunities.
“This will involve not only our economic development and tourism teams but teams across our organisations – in planning, roads, housing, infrastructure and other areas. We will ensure efficient, responsive services and ambitious plans that will encourage enterprise, entice visitors and allow our areas to thrive.”
Jackie Maguire praises the work Local Enterprise Offices have been doing to support and mentor businesses in their areas, “This is a very uncertain time for businesses. The full and free access we have enjoyed to our closest market in the UK has meant it is the first market to which many local businesses and SMEs expand. Many companies need to be brought up to speed on the issues that may be involved when the UK becomes a third country, and also need to be supported to help expand their markets. Local Enterprise Offices have been doing excellent work with businesses in their areas and will continue to help them to prepare.”